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New Pew Poll: Americans Back Legalization Over Deportation 80-18% – An All-Time High

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Even Trump Voters Support “Stay” over “Go” By 2:1

New polling from Pew Research finds that by a 4:1 margin Americans support a policy that allows undocumented immigrants to stay legally over a policy that does not allow undocumented immigrants to stay legally.  Since Pew began asking this question in 2013, this is the highest level of support recorded. In addition, by nearly a 2:1 margin, even Trump backers support legalization over deportation.

Among the poll’s findings:

Americans back legalization instead of deportation by a margin of 80-18%.

Trump voters support legalization over deportation by 60-37%, while Clinton voters support legalization over deportation by 95-4%.

Among Republican primary voters: those backing Trump in the GOP primary split on the legalization vs. deportation question 48-49%, while GOP primary voters who supported other candidates overwhelmingly backed legalization, by a 77-21% margin.

The Pew results are broadly consistent with recent polls from the New York Times/CBSQuinnipiacWashington Post/ABC News, CNN, and Gallup, each finding support ranging from a high of 88% to a low of 72%. Even the most recent poll from Fox News found that by a 74%-18% margin voters support “setting up a system so that illegal immigrants can become legal” rather than “deporting as many as possible.”

These findings matter because the central question at the heart of our nation’s immigration debate is what to do about the fact that 11 million undocumented immigrants are settled in the United States.

It is remarkable that during a political season in which GOP nominee Donald Trump regularly rails against undocumented immigrants, the new Pew poll shows support for “stay” over “go” is at an all-time high of 80%. Pew has asked the same question – should undocumented immigrants be allowed to stay legally or not allowed to stay legally – a total of 8 times from March 2013 through May 2015, and Americans favored the “stay legally” option by a range of  68%-72% and the “not allowed to stay legally” option by a margin of 24%-27%.

Since June of 2015, when Trump announced his run for the presidency – and called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals” – support for stay over go has steadily increased in the subsequent three Pew polls that asked this question (see page 117 – question 91-92 – for the full Pew polling for trendline on this question over time). Highlighting a similar finding from other recent public polls, the Washington Post recently noted that Trump’s overt nativism actually is “increasing sympathy for immigrants and depressing support for his harsh enforcement techniques.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The American people are more than ready for immigration reform that puts undocumented immigrants on a path to legal status. The conventional wisdom that this issue is hugely controversial just doesn’t square with the polls that show 4:1 support for legalization over deportation. It is notable that Republicans who are voting for Trump strongly back the position, and that Trump’s hardline deportation stance appears to be driving up support for allowing undocumented immigrants to become full members of American society. With Hillary Clinton committed to making immigration reform with a path to citizenship a first-year priority, it’s time for the GOP to do what the vast majority of the American people want.”